Dr. Claw gives up the secret to the perfect lobster roll

Ben Sargent, aka ‘The Lobsta Pusha,’ is clawing his way to the top
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

By Dan MacLeod

Look, I won’t mince words: I know a thing or two about lobster.

Being from Maine, the son of a seafood restaurant owner, I learned at an early age how to cook and prepare crustaceans. We Mainers don’t flinch when dropping a scampering hardshell into a pot of boiling water and I can pull out succulent tail meat without the aid of cumbersome tools. Plastic lobster bibs? Please.

So I was a bit dubious of the hype surrounding New York’s infatuation with lobster rolls. The buttery treat, which is a delicacy for millions of summer tourists each year in Maine, is something of an unofficial official sandwich of the Pine Tree State.

And as Mainer, I can vouch that the lobster rolls being made by Ben Sargent — aka Dr Claw — meet Maine standards.

The secret of good lobster roll is to get the lobster off the boat and into your mouth as quickly as possible. Also, keep it simple.

Sargent showed us how to make his famous roll in the test kitchen of the Cooking Channel, the network of his new show “Hook, Line and Dinner.” Here are his pointers:

Use fresh lobster

“You should eat lobster within 48 hours of it coming out of the water,” Sargent said.

Season the water

Sargent fills the bottom of a pot with water, and adds sea salt, a garlic clove, some peppercorns and Old Bay seasoning. (Pro tip: If you have it available, put a bunch of seaweed in the water instead for an oceanic tang.)

Steam, don’t boil

Boiling lobster can rob it of its natural flavor. Eight to 10 minutes is about the longest you want it in the pot, he says.

Cool down

When the lobster is done steaming, put it in a bowl of ice water to cool down. The meat will keep cooking otherwise and get mushy.

Steep it

Drain the juice from the inside of the lobster into a bowl and soak the cooked meat in it. This helps retain the lobster flavor.

Less is more

Mix in only a little mayonnaise. Most places overdo it, Sargent said. “All lobster rolls in this city have too much mayo,” he said. “It’s almost like they start with the mayo and then add lobster. It’s not a sauce.”

Bun it up

Use regular hot dog buns, buttered and grilled one side. Nothing fancy here.

Serve warm, lathered with butter

Heat up the lobster meat over low heat so that it’s warm — not hot. If it’s cold, you lose the flavor. Drizzle some warm garlic butter over the top of the roll, and you’re all set to eat.

Photo by Stefano Giovannini